September saw the release of the latest crime statistics by police minister Nathi Mthethwa, and although the results mark an increase in murder, house robberies and hijackings, Mthethwa continues to be positive in his outlook that "South Africa remains on the right path in its fight against crime".
The country's private security industry is made up of 9 000 registered security companies and around 400 000 registered and active security guards. Not only is this one of the largest in the world, but this private security sector is also larger than the South African Police Force and Army combined. Although the private security sector continues to increase, the latest crime statistics show that at least 96 police officers have been dismissed, in the Western Cape alone, over the past year. The province has endured 2 580 murders in the past year, undoubtedly a major contributor to the 0.6% increase in murder rates across the country for the year to March. This is only one of the contributing statistics that gave rise to this past year being the worst year for the country, in the past decade.
House robberies have increased by 3.6% and house burglaries went up by 3.3%; to place this in context, on average, 290 robberies are reported every day.
Among the criminal activity that has increased in the past year was car hijackings (up by 5.4% in the past year) and truck hijacking (up by 14.9% in the past year). The roads have seen a variety of new criminal trends implemented over the past year; while the hot spots for vehicle crime remain the same, the methods of operation have become increasingly advanced.
"An analysis of the statistics between 2011/12 and 2012/13 reveals a 5.4% increase in carjackings on a national scale. More notable is the dramatic increase in certain provinces across the country. Carjacking was reported to have increased by 45.6% in the Western Cape, 38% in Limpopo, 8.9% in Kwa-Zulu Natal and 7.9% in the Eastern Cape. On a positive note, the Gauteng province decreased by 1% year-on-year," says Grant Fraser, Divisional Director of Product and Marketing at MiX Telematics (Consumer).
Motorists throughout the country are most vulnerable at a place of residence, due generally to a false sense of security; the vulnerability of a motorist is increased in accordance with the decrease in attentiveness. The SAPS, along with private security organisations, have highlighted the need for vigilance in residential driveways. At this point, a motorist is exceptionally vulnerable due to the possibility of a bottleneck being formed by carjackers blocking an exit path in the driveway, while waiting for a gate or garage door to open.
During the past year, traffic on the roads not only increased due to the enormous amount of construction taking place, but a traffic jam also becomes the new hunting ground for criminals. Smash-and-grab activity on the roads is a modus operandi motorists have been fighting for quite some time, with window tinting and smash-and-grab window film now something of a standard requirement. New to the realm of possibilities when a motorist is stationary in morning or afternoon traffic is the theft of vehicle keys from a vehicle, through an open window. This tactic has motorists bartering for keys and, in turn, handing over any valuables that are in the vehicle at the time. In some cases, motorists have been held at gunpoint and threatened to ensure compliance with the demands being set out.
The SAPS management explained that the increased visibility of police officials has decreased street robberies but, in turn, caused a negative effect on house, business and vehicle crime. These crimes drive fear and insecurity, as they affect victims in their homes, vehicles and places of work.
Not all is doom and gloom; National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said "despite the challenges faced by the SAPS, crime in South Africa is under control" and advocates a "story of confidence" for the country. Some criminal activity that has decreased is the noticeable 20.3% decrease in cash-in-transit heists and the 80% decrease in bank robberies. Rape is a focus area of the police force, and has decreased 0.4% this year while crimes against women have decreased by 11% since 2009.
Western Cape Community Safety MEC Dan Plato has expressed his concern in the frequency of the release of the crime statistics and called for monthly releases of crime-related reporting. Mthethwa acknowledged that the serious and violent crime statistics shown are the worst in the last 10 years. South Africa remains hopeful with the promise of a firm hand on corruption, key focus areas for the police services; and the commitment to a society free of crime does offer some solace. "However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, success is guaranteed," says Mthethwa.
While the public security sector sets new goals and implements the way forward to guarantee success, the private sector similarly covers major ground. "Matrix continually invests in the expansion of its network and coverage footprint on a national scale. Recent expansions included wider coverage within the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal territories, offering the consumer added protection," says Fraser.